Bog Walking

IMG_5937 editThey are one of those last American frontiers of wilderness, these mysterious places that have triumphantly resisted many a pioneer effort to tame them.  We drive north, and great stretches of land spiked with the craggy silhouettes of stunted spruce and feathery tamarack are all that meet the eye for miles.  From the speed of the car window, it would seem that these trees are the only fauna that manage to monotonously thrive amidst the swamp grasses.  And inaccessible as they are, it can be a misconception difficult to prove otherwise.IMG_5590 editIMG_5624 edit.jpg IMG_5611 edit.jpgIf you’re fortunate enough to traverse a bog walk, however, you will find out that beneath the feathery tamarack branches there are wonderful, amazing plants that thrive in the water-logged, acidic soil, plants that you will see nowhere else but here.  There are strangely beautiful carnivorous plants…IMG_5635 editIMG_5943 editand rare exotic orchids named after legendary reptiles and dainty foot wear.IMG_5600 edit.jpg IMG_5370 editIMG_5923 edit.jpgThere are humps of moss so lush and thick it looks like shag carpet, and delicate grasses that are growing cotton balls.IMG_5617 edit.jpgThere are cranberries, bunchberries and labrador tea.IMG_5591 edit.jpgIMG_5368 editIMG_5650 edit.jpgThere are secret lakes of unknown depth, and pine cones in purple casings.IMG_5779 editIMG_5934 edit.jpgIt’s a whole new world of wonders, where even the more familiar flowers and berries manage to feel exotic if only for their tenacity to survive and thrive here.IMG_5946 edit.jpgIMG_5659 editAnd who knows what else might lie beyond?  The view a state park board walk lends is only a glimpse into this mysterious damp world of peat moss and uncertain footing.  I like the intrigue of this, imagining the rare orchids hidden away in the vast reaches of the bogs, never to be discovered.

I like to think of the Word of God as something like a bog walk into the otherwise unfathomable mysteries of who God is.  A walkway that doesn’t end like the ones in the parks do, but keeps going, on and on and on, as far as you’re willing to travel, with new and wonderful discoveries around every bend.  It’s an invitation to explore, to understand, to fully appreciate who He really is…not just what He might appear to look like when you’re speeding past a church building along the freeway.

We can have many impressions of and ideas about God.  Perhaps they’re based on how you were raised, or the way a certain church-goer you once knew acted.  They might even be based on what you hear at church or what a good Christian friend of yours says or thinks about Him.  But imagining that you understand God based purely on these “drive-by” experiences of life is like me imagining that a bog is completely boring because the only thing that grows there is weird looking pine trees, based purely on the view from my car window.  For all you know, your personal experiences may have given you a faulty view of what God is like.  At best, it’s only a partial view, just the tiniest incomplete glimpse into a God “who does great and unsearchable things, wonders without number” (Job 5:9), who causes the apostle Paul to exclaim: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Romans 11:33)

The only way to find out how beautiful He really is?  To get out of the car or off your seat on the sidelines, so to speak, and find out for yourself.  Don’t go slogging through in the hip waders of a self-made path, either, which can leave you lost and sinking fast into the mire of false ideas.  No, take the board walk He built just with you in mind, the one that is solidly built for sure footing, that skillfully curves along to bring you right to the rarest treasures of His wisdom and knowledge.

Read His Word.  Don’t think of it as something you have to do or should do; think of it as a treasure hunt into mysterious and wonderful places, because that’s what it really is.  There is no other way to truly “know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3)

“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

 

 

Golden

IMG_2611 edit.jpgWhen you hear the word “golden”, what do you think of?

For my four-year-old right now, it’s anything metallic.  Silver, copper, gold, it’s all “golden” to her.  And since it makes me smile to hear her calling our humble everyday silverware “golden”, I haven’t gotten around to educating her on the finer points of metallic hue identification.

But for me?

I think of my wedding band, a circle of precious metal around my finger, a valuable gift that symbolizes a solemn covenant made to me by a beloved man.IMG_2598 edit.jpgI think of lamplight on aged pine walls, and candle flames dancing above brass candlesticks, and the color of faces gathered companionably around a fire.img_2616-editI think of the warmly lit hour right around sunset that a photographer lives for, that has been universally dubbed “the golden hour” for it’s unparalleled quality of light.IMG_2603 edit.jpgI think of honey drizzled on cornbread,

of foot pedals on pianos,

of the gilded edges of a new Bible,

of the rims of the plates I used to serve golden slices of pumpkin pie on Thursday,

of a palomino horse galloping in the sunset,

of the color of my daughter’s favorite hen and the yolks of her pretty brown eggs.IMG_2606 edit.jpgAnd I think of the splendid way that autumn ends up here in the northwoods, all the tamaracks ablaze with glory, making even the murky swamp waters glimmer with unaccustomed splendor.  If the sun is shining on it all, then it truly is a tiny glimpse of heaven on earth.IMG_2614 edit.jpgThis little taste of “heaven on earth” is my favorite of all, then, because it’s one fleeting golden moment reminding me of a golden eternity.

It’s that place I’ve never been where my homesick heart belongs,

where the streets, buildings, furnishings, dishes, and clothing are golden,

where the prayers of the God’s people are so precious that they are presented before His throne in golden bowls,

where all that splendid gold needs no sun to illuminate it because God is there.

I can hardly wait to get there.

“…the city itself was of pure gold, as pure as glass…and the city has no need for sun or moon to shine on it, because the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its lamp.” (Revelation 22:5)

“The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” (Revelation 5:8)

Cattail Glory

IMG_7553.JPGIn this season between seasons, when it’s not really winter but doesn’t really seem like spring either, the changes occurring in the natural world are sometimes very subtle.  Yet, I have learned, they are there.  Nothing is really sitting still.  Everything is silently, gradually, almost imperceptibly, readying itself for when it’s time to burst forth into newness of life.  It does require my camera and I to look harder on these days when a walk still requires me to wear the old winter hat and mittens, but the discoveries we do make of coming spring are only that much more triumphant.

Today I take note: The last of the cattails that have been neat little brown cylindrical sausages on sticks all winter are finally, after months of wear by wind and snow, disintegrating into downy halos of seed.  They are dying, giving up of the very last of themselves.  Soon the bare stalks will turn soft as well, bowing to the swamp below them nevermore to rise again.

But we all know that somewhere, in other bare nooks in the swamp, baby cattails will spring forth from the downy fluff these tired old stalks are releasing to the wind.  There would be no continuance of life if they held onto the gift they possessed; it is only in the letting go that life will go on.  They release the old, looking forward unto the new and better things to come—and in the late afternoon sunshine, it’s as though they’re crowned with glory.

“But this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. .”  (Philippians 3:13-14, KJV)

Wild Calla Lilies

wild calla lily / rejoicing hillsI was never overly fond of calla lilies—until the summer we moved to our current home and I found them growing wild in the swamp down the road.  They quickly became my favorite new flower.  They are much more diminutive version of the cultivated versions, little white points of petals peeking out from amidst the brilliant green of arrow-shaped leaves, growing up all along the watery edges of still brackish pools.  They bloom just as the lilacs are beginning to fade, so it’s become my tradition to walk down and pick a handful of these when it comes time to replace the wilting lilac bouquet on our table.  There are so many of them in this spot, I call it the Calla Lily Pools—it’s so lovely!

“Why take you thought for raiment?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.  They toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all His glory was not arrayed like one of these.”  (Matthew 6:28-29)